Tag Archives: recycle

Come SEA my new eco-friendly bag!

Mama’s got a new bag. And I love it.

The cool thing about this new bag by my new favorite maker Seabags of Maine, is that it’s made from old sails. Some may refer to the fabric as “recycled” but actually it’s simply reused, or upcycled, if you will. No energy consuming recycling process is needed to turn sails into bags – just washing, handcraft, threads and needles. That’s American handcraft of course.

sea turtle seabags of maine
Medium size Seabag with Sea Turtle!

“Our materials come from Maine first, New England second and USA third. We use the last remaining thread manufacturer in the U.S. We use the only rope manufacturer in New England. And our sail supply chain? Well, that’s as local as it gets. We collect our sails one at a time through a network of passionate boaters who love our community waters as much as we do.”

Though there are plenty of prints and designs to pick from, this medium size (14″ x 14″) turtle tote had my name on it.

I fell in love with turtles when we first moved to Texas because they’re everywhere! In ponds, lakes, bayous and sometimes backyards. Mostly we’ve got the red-eared slider here, and I’m pretty sure that that’s a sea turtle on my bag, but I love them all equally. (I love them more than enough to never use straws in my drinks! ;))

sea turtle seabags of maine
I love the look of the rope.

My new tote bag is sturdy, easy to clean (wipe off!), great size (I’ve got lots of baby gear with me and recently used it as carry-on on a cross-atlantic flight – it worked perfectly), vegan and has a very low carbon footprint for something new – being as it’s partly “old”. In fact, over the past 15 years, Seabags of Maine have saved over 500 tons of material from going into landfills.

And that is how it should be done, fashion industry.

seabags of maine turtle bag
Windbreaker needed. It’s cold, and I love it.

PS. Since we are on vacation in Scandinavia at the moment, I shot these pictures on a Danish beach, on the other side of the Atlantic from where this bag was made. Same water, different shore. Pretty poetic.

Bags start at $45, totes at $120. Read more at Seabags.com

If you’re not buying recycled products, you’re not really recycling

If you’re not buying products made from recycled materials, you’re not really recycling.

I read this statement the other day, and it stuck with me because it’s so true (and people forget).

Recycling is an energy consuming process. It is not the solution to our waste issues, our plastic oceans and high consumption of resources, but a last resort that can minimize the carbon footprint of our modern, on-the-go, lives. IF we use the materials that come out of recycling, that is.

Here’s the twist; most of USA’s plastic “recyclables” are exported to China. There, they are used to make everything from fleece jackets to stadium seats. China imports around 40% of the world’s plastic scrap, so if you buy “recycled plastic products” from China, chances are the material came from your curb. It’s a crazy world (and sadly, China is drowning in western trash).

Another twist to the plastic recycling business is that many processing centers actually don’t have the funds to recycle low grade plastics anymore, like plastic bags and produce containers (think cherry tomatoes and strawberries) so they end up in landfill or being incinerated (dioxin pollution!) anyway.

Why? Because there is NO DEMAND for the products that can be made from low grade plastic.

So yes, we must stop consuming plastic like it is “recyclable”. We need to avoid it like the plague! Plus, whenever possible, we must choose recycled products.

In a perfect world we should not be shipping off our “trash” to other countries but recycle it locally, so in an effort to get there, we should buy locally manufactured products made from recycled materials.

Of course not just plastic, the other recyclables too; paper, glass, metals, clothes.

Need ideas? Ok!

Reusable water bottles

Liberty BottleWorks make lightweight and durable bottles from recycled aluminum in Washington State. In fact, it’s the only US-made 100% recycled metal bottle in the market.

Liberty BottleWorks take pride in having a zero waste factory and allocating a portion of their sales to environmental organizations and community services.

Did you know that recycling aluminum saves a lot of waste? While 2.2 lbs of aluminum extracted from the earth creates almost 200 lbs of waste in the process, 2.2 lbs of recycled aluminum creates only 7.5.

Batteries

Can an environmentalist live without using “disposable batteries”? Almost. Smoke detectors, wireless keyboards and baby gear use them though.

Energizer now has batteries made from 4% recycled batteries. I know that sounds low, but it’s a start! By voting with our dollars and buying these instead of regular batteries, hopefully that percentage will go up, up, up. (Always check where batteries are made. There is absolutely no reason to buy made in Asia, when made in USA costs the same.)

Toilet paper, kitchen towels, trash bags

We actually really like Seventh Generation’s paper products and I encourage everyone to make the switch to 100% recycled paper. Think you can’t afford anything but the bargain brand? Well, the solution to that is to use less paper, by opting for cloth napkins and cotton towels 99% of the time. We keep paper kitchen towels around for picking up the occasional dead cockroach or wiping greasy pans (then compost).

Did you know that if every household in the USA switched just one packet of eight kitchen towels to recycled paper we’d collectively save 3,400,000 trees in a year?

Seventh Generation’s large trash bags is a better choice as well, as they are made from 65% post-consumer recycled plastic. Think you can’t afford anything but the bargain brand? Well, the solution to that is to use fewer bags by creating less trash. Avoid one-time-use items and start a compost for food scraps.

Did you know that if every household in the USA replaced just one package of 14 count trash bags made from virgin plastic with 65% recycled ones, we could save 221,000 barrels of oil?

Plastic bottles (when/if we must)

If you’re buying shampoo or drinks in plastic bottles, look for the symbol that tells you part of the bottle was made from recycled plastic. Every bit of fossil fuel saving helps.

recycling USA recycled material

For the kids

Green Toys Inc. have a bunch of different products likes buckets, water toys, kitchen play sets, cars, airplanes and an awesome green recycling truck. All their toys are non-toxic, safe, BPA- and phalate-free, and made in USA from curbside collected recyclables.

Re-Play make their products using only recycled milk jugs. While Green Toys focus on play, Re-Play has all the essentials for baby dinner time.  Eco-friendly and made in USA.

Did you know that for every pound of recycled milk jugs used to make products, enough energy is saved to power a TV for three weeks straight?

Cookware

SCANPAN utilizes 100% recycled aluminum – aluminum that might previously have served as beer cans, bicycle frames or something else. These pans are made in Denmark though (from aluminum consumed over there naturally!).

Did you know that 75% of the world’s produced aluminum is still being used, over and over, thanks to recycling efforts?

There are countless products using recycled materials! We just need to make it a habit to read labels so we can pick them out from the rest. Remember, if you’re not buying products made from recycled materials, you’re not really recycling.

Got a favorite “recycling” brand? Please share it in the comments! :)

Read more about recycling and material’s recyclability here, at Going Zero Waste.

 

Five ways to eco-boost your day at the office (every day!)

As the kids are gearing up for school, adults are gearing up for going back to work after our summer vacations. Oh wait, some of us never left. Either way, it’s a great time to kick start some new, sustainable habits along with that new, hopefully better, fall wardrobe you’re about to show off.

Most of us spend just as much time at the office (or other workplace) as we do at home. Therefore, what environmentally friendly choices we make during working hours certainly matters!

Here are five easy ways to eco-boost your day at the office. EVERY day!

1. Ditch the disposables

Using disposable cups for office coffee and water is a nasty habit. There is absolutely no reason to add cups to landfill every day, because you’re too lazy to wash up. If your office has a dishwasher, all the better, if not, there is no shame in taking your cups home now and then to give them a deep clean. If you’re a stir stick fan, use that plastic piece of nonsense multiple times (or how does over 500 years in landfill before it degrades sound?).

Disposable water bottles don’t belong in the office either, since most offices have a water cooler you can use. And if not, ask your employer to invest in one (or maybe water filters for all kitchen faucets).

cup
Scarf + coffee mug = match made in office

2. Be eco-smart about lunch

Lunch is the one meal a day that you get to control 100%. No boyfriend, wife, family or friends cooking for you or suggesting what’s for dinner. Use this opportunity to eat vegan meals, or at least put beef and dairy on the “forever forbidden lunch food” list. Avoid places that use disposable dishes and cups.

Pack your lunch now and then too (in reusable containers) to save the car trip, napkins, unwanted straws, receipts and cash.

3. Trash belongs in the common area (not your office!)

If you have a personal trash can in your office or cubicle, ever notice how the trash bag is changed almost every night? Throw a banana peel in there and I guarantee you the cleaning crew will change the bag. This behavior wastes so much plastic! 100 employees, 220 workdays, that’s 22,000 (half empty) plastic bags going to landfill every year! Take your trash to a common area, like the kitchen. Bonus! You’re less likely to sit on your butt all day.

4. Turn that light off

Just because you aren’t footing the electricity bill doesn’t mean Mother Nature isn’t. Unless you’re working in a building powered 100% by solar panels – a turbine, coal plant or nuclear reactor somewhere is making energy for you. Turn off your office lights, bathroom lights, fans, heaters and electronics when you leave a space. Help your forgetful colleagues by turning off their lights too (hey, only when they’re not there!).

If you have access to the A/C thermostat, great, set it to a comfortable (higher) level to save the building electricity! Plus you and your colleagues don’t have to use personal space heaters (to warm those cold feet). [Reader tip!]

5. Reduce, reuse and recycle

80% of office waste is paper, so being mindful about paper use is key. Only print when you need to, use both sides of the paper and collect all paper for recycling. I bet your office has a secure shredder bin or recycle collection bin, and if not, encourage (hmm, more like demand) that your employer gets one. Help your colleagues remember to recycle by setting up local paper collection trays in your specific work area. If you see a piece of paper in a personal office trash can (see point 3) give the person the evil eye. It’s effective.

recycling tray
Three people at work use my collection bin :)

That’s my list! I do these things every day and I promise it’s so easy! We can all make a difference while we’re on the clock. Quite the win-win.

Do you have more ideas on how to maximize our eco-friendliness at work?! Leave me a comment :)

How my mama took my jeans from boot-cut to straight (leg) outta Vogue

Like most travelers and globetrotters, I get inspired by the places I visit or in this case, move to. When I first moved to Houston and saw how lots of cute girls were wearing boot-cut jeans, I had this insane idea that I too could rock a pair.

I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with boot-cuts, Jennifer Aniston always looks great in them, but I am a skinny/straight jean Euro.

Despite knowing this, I went out and bought an unethical, cheap pair at the Gap in January 2012. (This was before I started my not made in China challenge, and Gap claimed to have an eco-friendly wash process.)

Fast forward four years. Here I was with a bad pair of jeans that had only been worn maybe ten times (over three years ago). Not only were they the wrong fit for me, but also a bit too long, too high-waisted and with time, they had gotten to be a couple sizes too big. I tried selling them at garage sales, twice, for two dollars but no one picked them up. Evidently, I was not meant to part ways with these jeans. Considering how much energy, water, pesticides and fertilizer that went into the making of them, I knew the sustainable way to move forward was to “save” them. 

Mom to the upcycling-rescue.

I asked her if she wanted to give fixing them a go; “You need to take them in and change the entire style” I said, “I need skinny/straight jeans”. She agreed to try, considering only two dollars were at stake, though assuring me she was no longer the master seamstress she was when making clothes for me and my sister growing up. I trust her though, I know she’s awesome and I’ll take my chances any day!

Here’s where we started. It’s not great.

before

I put them on, took them off again, and she started by needling her way to a tighter fitting inseam, including shortening the rise about one inch (to create a lower waist). After that, she took in the outer seam, starting just below the front pockets.

mama

Then she had me try them on, over and over, each time she’d remove more and more fabric in the legs, making them slimmer and slimmer until I said “stop”. She also took two inches off the length.

My mom is a goddess. Here’s where we ended up: straight (leg) outta Eco-Vogue.

train tracks

This is my new favorite pair! Next time I see her I’m going to bring more clothes for her to “fix”. (Yes, I already told her.) So if someone asks me who made my clothes, I’ll say my mama did.

Looking amazing. Zero dollars spent. Minimum eco-impact.

That’s happiness in a pair of jeans.

More on sustainable denim here

Never REcycle when you can UPcycle (especially shoes!)

I am not entirely sure how it happened, but I accidentally tore off the flower embellishment on one of my Oka-B ballet flats while changing clothes one day. Suddenly it was lying there, alone on the floor, and all my right shoe had left was the pop-rivet. How in the world?

Remembering Oka-B’s 2 year warranty, I decided to email them and let them know of my shoe tragedy. As I had hoped, in just a hop, skip and a few hours, I got an email from them offering me a brand new pair to replace my broken sapphire blue Maris flats. Yes, please!

Now, you know that Oka-B recycles any pair of shoes that gets shipped back to them, as part of their eco-friendly and zero waste production efforts, but I was hesitant to part ways with my original pair.

Why RECYCLE when I can UPCYCLE?! Who wouldn’t want two pairs of these comfy flats in their closet? Two pairs with different decor!

IMG_7593
Before upcycling

Before I added passionate blogger and part-time Swedish tutor to my already full work week, I dabbled a bit with scrapbooking and arts, so naturally I still have a few craft goodies in my stash. I dug it all out knowing exactly what I wanted to use for my “new” shoes: RED GLITTERY STARS.

Though recycling is great, and I love that Oka-B does it, it does consume energy. Keeping your shoes and clothes for a long time and wearing them over and over again is the only way you get to call your closet sustainable. And in order to do that, sometimes you have to be creative, mend and fix stuff!

The stars I used are stickers, and I know they probably won’t last forever. I’ll try to keep the shoes out of the rain but if ruined stars happen, I have blue and white ones too, so I can keep fixing them and changing things up.

This little fix only took 2 minutes. AND I might actually be more fond of this style than I am of the original one… That’s my kind of DIY!

IMG_7595
Star-spangled, made in USA, upcycled ballet flats!

Read my original Oka-B review here

How many cows in one burger patty? How many barrels of oil does one EV save? What is FRACKING? (Watch a video and find out)

Ok, this is a cheat post from “Anna the writer”, as this post will have very few words. I just have to share some amazing videos with you that, personally, I can watch over and over.

Yes, they’re all about the environment and our future, so naturally I am super interested. But they are also super easy to watch – good animation does that to a video.

The first one contemplates this: what happens when electrical cars become mainstream? Can the oil industry ever bounce back from a crash created by pure lack of demand? How many barrels of oil per year does one electrical car replace? Hint; it’s more than 10.

The second one is all about them burgers and those sad feedlots. But this video is actually kind of cute, awesome and very informative. Did you know that eating corn makes the cows fart and burp MORE than they do eating grass? And how many different cows are mixed into one hamburger patty? Many more than you think. (Gross.)

The third one, I’ve watched so many times; it’s about fracking. As the people in Porter Ranch, California have left their homes due to the health risks associated with the largest methane leak in history, the energy companies keep doing this, and call it “50% cleaner energy”. Have a watch, there ain’t nothing clean about it. (And only one berning presidential candidate wants to stop it…)

It’s amazing what you can learn from three five-minute animated videos! If only more people would actually listen to the messages. (Be honest; did you watch them?)

Three videos, three important things we need to do to keep planet earth healthy:

  1. Drive electrical cars
  2. Reduce beef and dairy consumption drastically
  3. Stop using fossil fuels for energy*

I’m in – are you?

*Start today by switching to a 100% renewable energy provider, like Green Mountain Energy

Ignorant things people say to environmentalists – and why it’s bullshit

Many people seem to have an issue with anyone they meet, who is fighting to end any type of injustice. Ridicule of such fighters and denial of the issues are common traits for the ignorant bunch. Normally, I just smile and shrug my shoulders, but since it bugs me, I decided to compile the best advice and comments I’ve gotten as an environmentalist, into this blog post.

It may make you feel defensive, if you’re the type of person handing out this kind of “advice”, or maybe you’ll read and nod because this happens to you too! Either way, here it goes:

1.“Much good recycling will do when you drive THAT car”

First, let me make this clear; I don’t drive MORE miles in my car in order to recycle or bring my reusable bottle. That means that by minimizing landfill waste, I am doing a good thing for the environment and the climate (reducing methane emissions and saving energy), which has absolutely NOTHING to do with my car.

Second, since I am an environmentalist, I’m against all fuel-burning activities and I am planning to get away from it as soon as technology and means align. In the meantime, I do all I can to compensate for my using of fuel. Such actions include, but are not limited to: recycling, attempting zero waste, no one-time-use plastic, CO2 compensating, walking or biking when I can, reduced consumption, shopping local, buying organic produce, supporting environmental organizations, saving water and last but not least, eating mostly plants. What are you actually doing in order to carbon compensate for your burgers, your imported sweatshop shirts and your car?

To make a point of just how stupid this comment is, here are similar statements: “Much good turning off the lights will do when you have a refrigerator” or “Much good working-out will do when you had lunch today”.

I rest my case.

ignoramt

2.”Shouldn’t you be driving a Prius?”

Oh, the beloved Prius comment. And, no, I find them slow, not great looking and I happen to have another car for now. Hybrid cars still use fossil fuel and motor oil and have twice as many engine components as conventional cars. Maybe a Prius won’t work for my family’s camping trips or maybe I need to drive off-road when I’m saving wild animals from plastic waste you threw away. Maybe I can’t afford to change cars right now. Whatever reason there is for me not having a Prius, please stop assuming I should. If you think driving a hybrid alone equals being eco-friendly, you have a long way to go. On another note, shouldn’t you be getting out of my face?

3.“Leonardo DiCaprio says he’s an environmentalist, but he travels in his personal jet”

Here’s something that might baffle the ignorant: all conservation efforts take tools and transport. No matter how hard we try to not travel, in order to make an impact we need to be at the right place at the right time, show up for meetings, debate and participate. Leo can’t orb and he is a public figure, so he flies in his jet.

I read an interview recently, where Leo said that what inspires him most in his work for the environment, is when he travels and gets to see beautiful places, yet untouched by man. It gives him hope and inspires him to do things like, invest 45 million dollars in conservation projects.

Last time I checked, you took a flight for no better reason than going on vacation, so why are you judging someone else for flying?

And maybe Leo’s jet runs on bio-fuels (estimated to reduce flight emissions by up to 80%) and transports a team of 20+ people. You don’t know his deal, so shut the beep up.

4.“The fossil-fuel-protesters showed up in kayaks made of fossil fuel. Stupid!”

Wow. You know what? I’m pretty sure some of them wore North Face fleece sweaters and had sneakers on with plastic soles too. They may also have been wearing life vests and glasses with plastic frames. Matter much?

Sounds like you don’t understand why they were protesting (in their emission-free transportation). Let me tell you.

They were protesting against a large corporation being allowed to drill for MORE oil, inside of an important eco-system. You see, what they’re saying is this: “We realize there has been oil for a long time, we just don’t want to endanger more species and habitats by drilling for more. Further, we want to stop new drilling sites all together so that industries and inventors have to come up with smarter ways to make material for our kayaks, fleeces and glasses. Preferably something non-toxic this time that doesn’t make a corrupt industry richer.”

By judging their kayaks, you are proving your ignorance and how little you understand about the environmental importance of the protest. Focusing on the method of protest, is just a cheap trick to divert attention from the topic of protest (everyone knows that). And, again, conservation efforts take transport and tools. And I promise you, they didn’t buy new kayaks for that ONE protest. They had them already, borrowed them from friends or rented them. I’m sure there was zero consumption related to their protest.

ignoramt2

5.“You’re an idealist. It doesn’t make economic sense to change”

Now that’s a lie. Are you telling me that it doesn’t make economic sense for restaurants and coffee shops to not provide one-time-use to-go cups? That it doesn’t make economic sense to bring my own shopping bags to the store? That is doesn’t make economic sense to stop polluting the oceans so we still have marine life in 100 years?

The technology needed for us to transition to 100% green energy is already here, and as it gets bigger and better it will provide millions of jobs. We have to re-think, re-build and re-plan everything. Sure, for crude loving companies like Exxon and Koch Industries it doesn’t make economic sense. But are you seriously routing for the polluting billionaires?

Point is; I’m not idealistic. But you, dear, are lazy and conservative, and probably very scared of change. Mostly I think you are worried that people like me are right (why else would you put me down?) and sooner or later you will have to admit that. If not because you realize it on your own, but because rules and regulations will force you to change your consumption driven, fossil dependent, one-time-use behavior. But don’t worry; I’m not going to criticize your choices in front of all your friends or colleagues, like you do mine. I’m just leading by example, knowing I’m right, while you’re, honestly, simply being ignorant (isn’t it blissful?!).

I’ll let you in on a little secret; all living humans, including environmentalists, have a carbon footprint. An environmentalist in the west’s footprint is most definitely larger than that of a person in a third world country; we consume more food, have more possessions, use electricity and most of us have private transport. The only way to not have a carbon footprint is to end one’s stay here on the planet. But since we are having a good time, we want to hang around for a while. What we are trying to do is to minimize our footprints, work for change and encourage awareness so collectively the whole world can minimize their footprints too.

Now to end this rant. I wrote this blog post on a computer; a device that contains rare earth metals and plastic, consumes energy and was made unethically in China. (I also drank some tea.) So go ahead ignorant bunch, say it. “Much good blogging will do when you have a computer”.

Yeah, that one is on me.

 

*Phrases in pink are from the song “Step off” by Kacey Musgraves.

Zero waste trip: Minimizing trash on the (business) go

I don’t consider myself a frequent flyer of any sorts. I avoid flying if I can; it’s boring, time consuming and adds to my carbon footprint, but sometimes duty calls.

In order to make the best out of a recent business trip and not just co2 compensate (which I always do at Stand for Trees – 1 ton per 1 domestic flight) I decided to attempt a zero waste trip.

Only about 56 hours of trip-time to handle, I figured this would be a great little zero waste outing. It’s a gamble on business trips because you cannot pick the restaurants or activities yourself, so it can be a waste trap, thus an exciting challenge. I brought these items with me, to help me out:

With my travel buddy in the terminal - ready to do this!
With my travel buddy in the terminal – ready to do this!

It started well, got my boarding pass on my phone and checked in at the parking garage with my credit card. Peets coffee in the terminal filled both my bottle with water and my mug with coffee. I did get a bran-muffin, which was baked inside of a paper type form. I took it with me on the plane, hoping to find a compost in LA.

I asked for my bottle to be filled with water once in air, and guess how they did that? By emptying a 12 oz aluminum can into it. What! Rumor has it that Southwest recycles, but I am not sure. I always see them throwing everything in the same trash bag. I decided to take the can with me so I could recycle it in the terminal. (Metal takes less energy than plastic to recycle, and can be recycled unlimited times, so at least not the worst material that could happen.)

From that point on, I was on a roll! Lucky for me, during the two dinners and one lunch I ate with my colleagues (all had good vegan or vegetarian options), I only “produced” one paper napkin of waste (wrapped around the utensils – no choice).

When it comes to hotels, I realized that if you take the time to consider your options carefully before you book, you can make your low waste life easier by staying at a place that serves breakfast instead of the classic continental (wasteful) breakfast buffet. I lucked out again as my manager had decided we should stay at the Hilton Garden Inn, where they served breakfast on porcelain and offered bulk coffee, juice in glass jars and made-to-order food. Of course I had to skip yogurt and individually wrapped baked goods, which wouldn’t have been great choices anyway – dairy and sugar – so no loss!

Another hotel-tip would be to use the “Do not disturb sign” at all times! It saves energy, cleaning supplies, time for the crew, water and trash bags. Easy!

I've had this "ziplock replacer" for my liquids for 7 years. Now that's reusing.
I’ve had this “ziplock replacer” for my liquids for 7 years. Now that’s reusing.

I kept my bottle with me at all times and filled the mug with coffee in the hotel lobby. When my colleagues wanted Starbucks, I opted for ice tea in my water bottle. I also stopped at a gas station and filled it with water from a soda machine while on the road.

The trip was going so well, but took a sour turn at LAX airport, where I couldn’t find a single proper restaurant and all the food came pre-packaged or was served on paper plates! (I panicked a bit when I saw apples wrapped in plastic. Yuck.) I had to rely on coffee to fill me up (Starbucks in my to-go mug) and a banana. There were no compost bins in the terminal and the banana was non-organic but I thought it was better than something processed and plastic-wrapped.

Despite the LAX despair, this trip turned out to be a fun zero waste adventure! It totaled only 1 paper napkin, a banana peel, one muffin form and some receipts (needed for my company to cover my expenses anyway) for the whole trip. This was despite trying really hard to produce zero waste.

It is truly astounding how much our society promotes waste and one time packaging! Gross!

Bringing your own water bottle and to-go mug on trips in the United States (as everyone is so nice letting you fill up with free water here) is super easy, convenient, cost effective and saves so many one-time-use cups and bottles! Next time I’ll pack some emergency nuts and fruits – just incase another LAX situation happens.

IMG_7130
Two heroes in the middle, surrounded by the one-time-use losers

You don’t have to be a zero waste hero to make a positive trash impact! Every small change you make matters. Saving straws and cups when you’re out and about, never buying bottled water, always opting for carton instead of plastic (eggs, milk, juice, rice, pasta etc.) and bringing bags (also for produce) to the grocery store is a great start to help reduce plastic waste. The average American uses 300 to 700 one-time-use plastic bags per year! You don’t have to be part of those statistics. Take control of your environmental impact.

As for the WHY in all of this. I read lots of zero waste blogs and I am trying to live low waste. There is simply no excuse for single-use plastic. Our oceans are full of it, animals die with it in their tummies, BPA found in it is hormone-disrupting, it’s made from non-renewable fossil fuel (again you are making the fossil guys richer by buying) and practically never degrades.

Here are some good pictures from The Two Hands Project, to inspire you to go reusable!

trash

Read more here about how they encourage everyone to “take 30 Minutes and two hands to clean up YOUR world anytime, anywhere” to deal with the plastic pollution. Love that idea!

Read up on Zero Waste and find blogs here, at the Zero Waste Bloggers Network.

2 years on the challenge: Not made in China GURU – c’est moi!

2015 has been an amazing year! Not because anything particularly amazing has happened, on the contrary, but I have learned so much this year; by dealing with life’s ups and downs, making mistakes and frankly by researching a hell of a lot, looking for answers and watching documentaries.

2014 was all about “surviving” this challenge of mine, just avoiding the made in China traps and looking long and hard at what I actually needed to buy vs. what I wanted to buy. 2015, on the other hand, has taken me and the challenge so much further, turning me into a shop local champ and close to living somewhat sustainably (still have a long way to go!). Shopping not made in China is actually easy now!

During the entire year of 2015, I have participated in buying only these (very) few items made in China:

  1. Plastic frames for prescription eye-glasses for my husband (one pair of sunglasses, one regular pair)
  2. Two pairs of foot-friendly Merrell sneakers for my husband.

Isn’t that an amazingly short list?! Hurray! Glasses and footwear are two of few items, I consider “need to have” so I don’t feel too bad about my felonies! About the sneakers, he got two pairs from China and I got three pairs from Vietnam… so we both went sweatshop there. Anyone else come close to that low number? Take a look around your home, just for fun, to see where your new purchases were made!

I’ve had a lot of people read my blog this year, mostly because I have shared it on social media and people with curious minds have clicked my links. Nothing is more awesome than having someone say “You have made me think of that” or “Because of you I did this”. It means so much to me. I believe that most people want to do right, by each other and by the planet; they just don’t have the simple tools or the knowledge to do so – yet. I am really just trying to inspire while I’m constantly learning more!

2015 lookback

There was a time when mankind thought the earth was flat. There was a time when some people said Climate Change wasn’t due to human actions. Wait, oops, that’s now…

So that said, here’s a list of a few easy eco-changes I’ve made this year in addition to shopping made right (here):

  1. I’m now pretty much vegan and some days vegitarian (but I’m not putting a label on it). I made this change in order to save water, CO2, methane emissions, forests, and energy. Basically save the planet! (Yes, I saw the Cowspiracy movie!)
  2. Our household now has 10% solar & 90% wind powered electricity. Finally found a provider serving our area offering only renewable energy! Whooo!
  3. Cut my hair to shoulder length! I’d like to think I did it to save water, shampoo, and products, but I did it to look cute. Still, the savings are a bonus :)
  4. Stopped using my trashcan at work. I noticed the cleaning crew changed the bag every day, even if there was just a tiny thing in it. Now I walk 20 steps to the kitchen. Exercise! And that is 240 plastic bags saved, per year, for ONE person.

It’s 2016! I will keep blogging, keep bugging you all (yay) and keep my optimism and passion for the environment because I believe passion is contagious!

Remember; The Not Made in China Challenge is not just about China. It’s about knowing where your possessions came from, how they were made and how they affect our planet. We all need to process that knowledge and take it seriously. What you choose to buy or not to buy is your vote and your impact on the world market.

This is the NOT MADE IN CHINA CHALLENGE 2016! I am psyched for this year – is this the year I will have ZERO items on my China-felonies count?

Thanks for reading! Come back and visit :)

Now that’s what I call an eco-friendly ballet flat!

I need to write some more about the navy blue ballerina flats I added to the LookBook last week. Why? Because they are quite special!

okabporchThe reason I got new shoes in the first place, is that I finally came to terms with the fact that my old, navy blue Keds really had to be demoted to yard shoes & CVS runs (sob, sob), and with that leaving an opening in the hallway for new, blue shoes. I wear a lot of blue to the office, navy and dark blues are my favorites and I love pairing dark blue jeans with blue flats.

I saw a picture on twitter of an Oka-B Lilly ballet flat and thought, “Wow, how can those cute, made in USA, ballerinas only be 45 dollars?” I had to investigate.

As it turns out, there’s more to this brand than meets the eye. First, all the shoes are actually made of plastic, which is fully recyclable. If you are not comfortable putting your shoes in the recycling bin when you’ve worn them out; send them back to Oka-B and they’ll recycle them for you. Second, they’re all made in Georgia by a team that stands by their product enough to offer a two year warranty. Warranty on shoes? That’s awesome! There are women’s flats, wedges and sandals in a variety of styles and colors to choose from.

Five minutes into surfing their website, I found that Oka-B is the daughter company of Okabashi shoes, who go by the same concept of made right here, vegan, recyclable, ergonomic, easy clean shoes, but offers another set of styles; including flip flops, sandals and clogs for men and women. Both Oka-B’s and Okabashi’s manufacturing process is virtually waste-free since scrap material is recycled into new products. It’s local manufacturing combined with zero waste; made in USA at its finest!

Now, last, but most definitely, not least; let’s talk about the box in which my “Sapphire with Navy Knit Flower” ballet flats came.

OKa-B new

Oh, goodness. It is quite possibly the most beautiful shoe box I have ever seen! I paid 35 dollars for my shoes (I found a 10 dollar coupon code on okabashi.com – yay) and that included this magnificent box.

Shoes fit true to size and they are comfy! The fact that they’re plastic happens to be a great bonus for someone living in monsoon land, also known as Houston, Texas.

In a few years, after I have reused, reused and enjoyed, should they get worn out; I will definitely recycle them! The box on the other hand, is staying with me. For EVER.

[LINK to Oka-B]